Summit Elevation (m): 2710
Trip Date: April 19 2014
Elevation Gain (m): 1100
Round Trip Time (hr): 7
Total Trip Distance (km): 20
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you sprain something
Difficulty Notes: Some avy risk, especially if ascending directly from the Lake Louise ski resort. Safer but longer to access from the Wolverine Valley.
Technical Rating: OT4; YDS (Hiking)
Map: Google Maps
On Saturday, April 19, 2014 a group of us took advantage of low avy hazards and warm spring temps to attempt the Pumpkin Traverse near the Lake Louise ski resort in Banff National Park. The Pumpkin Traverse usually involves ascending three summits, but due to conditions we didn’t bother going for Unity Peak (I completed that one with Mike Mitchell in early 2016). We started up the ski out in much warmer temps than we were expecting. The forecast had called for -8 but it was almost 0 already at 08:30! We made good time and were soon crossing the ski run above Temple Lodge. Lipalian and Purple can be done quickest and easiest via the Larch ski run up to Lipalian and then traverse to Purple and out via the Purple Bowl between Wolverine Ridge and Redoubt Mountain. Since Dave, Bill and Kev had all bagged Lipalian already, we decided to try ascending through the Purple Bowl instead, possibly skiing some of the gladed runs on Wolverine Ridge on descent.
The Purple Mound
Instead of heading up the main winter access to Boulder Pass across the ski run, we headed up the run about 100 meters or so and followed the summer access trail. About 5 minutes later we came across an obvious cut line trending up to climber’s left, which we followed. At this point we were breaking trail in about 6″ of fresh powder and grinning like idiots, thinking of our run back down already.
The trail contoured the north end of Wolverine Ridge before entering the Purple Bowl. We stayed just to climber’s right of the stream running out of the bowl and headed for an obvious ramp at the end of the valley. (There are many ways to access Purple Mound but we chose the safest and least steep one.) Once up the ramp we noticed 3 other skiers popping out of the col between Purple and Wolverine Ridge – they had ascended a more direct route from the ski area and were also headed up Purple. We gladly followed their steep ascent tracks to the summit mound.
The views were amazing on this beautiful spring day! Unfortunately the snowpack was deteriorating in the warm temps. Wietse and I headed off to ski up Lipalian while Bill, Dave and Kev headed down to check out Wolverine Ridge and possibly ski it’s north east glades to our ascent tracks. The three other skiers were headed down to attempt a traverse to the valley between Unity and Heather Ridge before heading to Skoki Lodge. They looked pretty small next to the huge snow slopes coming off of Purple / Unity! I can see why this traverse should only be attempted in very stable avy conditions.
The traverse to Lipalian Mountain from the Purple Mound was straightforward and relatively safe. Avoiding obvious (massive) cornices, we worked our way to the summit ridge and managed to ski right to the summit. Stunning views of Mount Temple and the other giant peaks around Lake Louise greeted us. The wind also picked up considerably and after snapping some quick photos we headed back down to the Purple / Lipalian col.
At the col we decided conditions were safe enough to shortcut the re-ascent to Purple and we skied down to the Wolverine / Purple col on sun-baked crust, the skiing wasn’t quite as good as it would have been in cooler / less sunny conditions. We noticed that the others hadn’t bothered with Wolverine Ridge and figured it was due to the deteriorating snow pack. Instead, we followed our ascent tracks back out to the ski hill, on pretty sloppy snow the whole way.
A nice ending to the day was some refreshments at the Temple Lodge which resembled a beach more than a ski lodge in the warm spring sun! The run back down the ski out was kind of crappy, with slushy snow grabbing our skis at the most inopportune moments (just when we needed speed to coast the flat sections). Overall the day was a great spring ski trip. Highly recommended with lots of variation. I’ll be going back for Unity and Wolverine Ridge for sure.